Mastodon Scientific Frontline: Treat hepatitis E virus better after transplantation

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Treat hepatitis E virus better after transplantation

The joint partners of the HepEDiaSeq project (from left): André Gömer (RUB); Prof. Dr. Heiner Wedemeyer (MHH); Dr. Patrick Behrendt (MHH); Dr. Christina Hecker (Kairos GmbH); Timothy Göhring (Kairos GmbH); Prof. Dr. Tanja Vollmer (HDZ); Prof. Dr. Eike Steinmann (RUB); Birgit Drawe (HDZ); Dr. Daniel Todt (RUB).
Credit: Department of Molecular and Medical Virology

A precise analysis procedure is intended to enable decision aids for the treatment of hepatitis E infection.

Hundreds of thousands of people are infected with the hepatitis E virus (HEV) in Germany every year; most don't notice it. With a weakened immune system, the disease can become dangerous, even after an organ transplant. Treating the disease more successfully in this case is the goal of the “HepEDiaSeq” project, which is coordinated by Prof. Dr. Eike Steinmann, head of the Molecular and Medical Virology Department at RUB, has started. The project team develops a procedure to recognize viral variants and thus give decision aids for the therapy. The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research for around 1.5 million euros for three years.

In addition to Prof. Dr. Eike Steinmann private lecturer Dr. Tanja Vollmer from the Institute for Laboratory and Transfusion Medicine at the Heart and Diabetes Center North Rhine-Westphalia - University Clinic of the RUB, Prof. Dr. Heiner Wedemeyer from the Clinic for Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endocrinology at the Hannover Medical School and private lecturer Dr. Christian Stephan from KAIROS GmbH. The scientists hope to develop a reliable method that diagnoses HEV infections highly sensitively and at the same time identifies viral variants through an interdisciplinary approach that combines specialist knowledge from medicine, virology and computer science. In order to record the enormous amounts of data from the various locations in a structured manner and to use them for in-depth analysis, the biomedical research portal CentraXX of KAIROS GmbH will be used as part of the study management.

Widespread, rarely recognized

In pregnant women or people with weakened immune systems, the infection with HEV can be chronic and at worst fatal. "This makes hepatitis E a serious problem for organ transplant people whose immune systems have to be suppressed with medication so that the foreign organ is not rejected," explains Eike Steinmann.

In the project, the partners want to develop a so-called depth sequencing process, which not only detects HEV in a highly sensitive manner, but also recognizes different variants of the virus in parallel. This should make it possible to treat the infection better. "We currently only have the active ingredient ribavirin available for the treatment," says Steinmann. “But the decision about the administration and dosage is difficult. Here we want to develop a so-called decision support tool that enables a personalized treatment approach and thus supports the therapy decisions of the treating doctors.

Source/Credit: Ruhr University Bochum

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